Nostra Aetate

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Nostra Aetate (Latin: In our Age) is the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. Passed by a vote of 2,221 to 88 of the assembled bishops, this declaration was promulgated on October 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI[1].

The first draft, entitled "Decretum de Judaeis" ("Decree on the Jews"), was completed in November 1961, approximately fourteen months after Cardinal Bea was commissioned by Pope John XXIII. This draft essentially went nowhere, never having been submitted to the Council, which opened on 11 October 1962.

Contents

Summary of the final text of Nostra Aetate

  • The Declaration begins by describing the unity of the origin of all people, and the fact that they all return to God; hence their final goal is also one. It describes the eternal questions which have dogged men since the beginning, and how the various religious traditions have tried to answer them.
  • It mentions some of the answers that Hindus, Buddhists, and members of other faiths have suggested for such philosophical questions. It notes the willingness of the Catholic Church to accept other religions in so much as they lead souls to the Christ.
  • Part three goes on to say that the Catholic Church regards the Muslims with esteem, and then continues by describing some of the things Islam has in common with Christianity and Catholicism: worship of One God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, Merciful and Omnipotent, Who has spoken to men; the Muslims' respect for Abraham and Mary, and the great respect they have for Jesus, whom they consider to be a Prophet and not God. The synod urged all Catholics and Muslims to forget the hostilities and differences of the past and to work together for mutual understanding and benefit.
  • Part four speaks of the bond that ties the people of the 'New Covenant' (Christians) to Abraham's stock (Jews). It states that even though some Jewish authorities and those who followed them called for Jesus' death, the blame for this cannot be laid at the door of all those Jews present at that time, nor can the Jews in our time be held as guilty, thus repudiating an indiscriminate charge of deicide; 'the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God'. The Declaration also decries all displays of antisemitism made at any time by anyone.

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